Conn. Governor To Sign America's Toughest Gun Bill

9:40 AM, Apr 4, 2013   |    comments
Democratic Gov. Dannel Malloy is scheduled to sign the nation's most far-reaching gun control bill in Hartford. (AP Photo)
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NEWTOWN, Conn. -- Democratic Gov. Dannel Malloy is scheduled to sign the nation's most far-reaching gun control bill in Hartford at noon Thursday, concluding several emotional weeks of debate and compromise since the state was rocked and the world stunned by a mass murder at an elementary school here.

The state House voted early Thursday in favor of the 139-page bill crafted by leaders from both major parties in the Democratic-controlled General Assembly. It passed the Senate in a 26-10 vote Wednesday.

The bill adds more than 100 weapons to the state's ban on assault weapons, limits the capacity of ammo magazines and requires background checks for all weapon sales, including at gun shows.

It would also establish the nation's first statewide registry for people convicted of crimes involving dangerous weapons. Access to the registry would be available only to law enforcement.

READ: Bill summary

The bill drew angry protests at the Capitol, with some gun-rights supporters booing leading advocates of the bill. But not in Newtown, where the bill and the bipartisan effort involved in its passage were warmly received. Here the healing is continuing process almost four months after Adam Lanza's horrifying one-man assault at Sandy Hook Elementary School left 20 schoolchildren and six staff members dead.

In a written statement, Nicole Hockley, whose 6-year-old son Dylan was killed at Sandy Hook, said she appreciated the "bipartisan path" the state took in crafting the gun measure.

"I particularly appreciate that the Legislature listened to us and strengthened the provision on large capacity magazine sale. As someone who is new to the process and here only out of necessity, I am pleased with what we accomplished without rancor, with love," Hockley said.

Newtown First Selectman Pa Llodra, the town's chief executive officer and a Republican, said she is "pleased for the most part" with the bill.

"It includes action on some of the most critical elements in gun control and certainly signifies to the rest of the country - and maybe the world - that significant, meaningful change can come about through the political process," Llodra said.

The bill was drawn up by a bipartisan task force assembled after the Dec. 14 Newtown massacre.

"The tragedy in Newtown demands a powerful response, demands a response that transcends politics," said Senate President Donald Williams.

While Republican state Sen. John Kissel of Enfield acknowledged that "you just can't have a heart at all if you don't feel for the families and friends and neighbors of the victims of that Newtown massacre," he expressed concern that the bill is ultimately harmful to lawful gun owners.

"When it comes to further regulations on guns and ammunition in one of the states that's touted as having, right now, some of the most tough gun laws in the United States of America, I think it goes one step too far," said Kissel, who opposed the bill.

Sen. Scott Franz, a Republican from Greenwich, another opponent, said there was "too much emphasis on gun regulations."

Among its provisions are a requirement of eligibility certificates for the purchase of any rifle, shotgun or ammunition. Penalties for illegal possession and firearms trafficking would also be significantly increased.

In addition to the controls on guns and ammunition, the law would set safety standards for school buildings, allow mental health training for teachers and expand mental health research in the state.

The bill would not ban large-capacity magazines outright, but would grandfather them in from Jan. 1, 2014. The magazines could be loaded only with 10 or fewer rounds, except in the owner's home or at a shooting range. Owners would have to register the magazines by year's end.

The likely passage of the bill has spurred gun sales across the state, particularly on the purchase of large-capacity magazines, The (Danbury) News-Times reports.

Gun rights advocates question whether the legislation would have done anything to stop 20-year-old Lanza's rampage. Police say he fired 154 shots from a Bushmaster .223-caliber rifle within five minutes, before killing himself.

"If it (the legislation) did something to prevent this incident, where the fault lies with the individual and the mother, not with the legitimate gun owners in this state, then we could probably support something," said Robert Crook, executive director of the Coalition of Connecticut Sportsmen.

Thursday would have been the 7th birthday of Ana Marquez-Greene, who died at Sandy Hook. In an op-ed column appearing Thursday in USA TODAY, her parents, Jimmy Greene and Nelba Marquez-Greene, write:

"We don't need new laws to begin strengthening the bonds of family and community. We can be more giving, loving parents, friends and neighbors. We can offer love to those who are outcasts or alone. We can look to God and form an eternal relationship built from nothing but love.

"But we must do more. Today (Thursday), the governor of our home state of Connecticut will sign historic bipartisan legislation designed by legislators to make our communities safer. Their cooperative spirit should be a model for Congress, when the Senate considers legislation next week to reduce gun violence."

Contributing: John Bacon; The Associated Press

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